View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 20, 2000
                             TO THE NATION

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. For the last seven years, we've worked hard to enhance the health and safety of the American people. Today I'd like to talk about new measures we're taking to save the lives of many thousands of men and women who fall victim to one of America's biggest killers, sudden cardiac arrest.

Every day -- every day -- more than 600 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest. In some cases, the cause is long-term coronary artery disease. In others, it can be triggered by intense emotional or physical stress. Either way, the heart starts beating chaotically and cannot send blood to the brain and other vital organs.

The key of survival is the speed of response. In addition to CPR, most cardiac arrest victims need an immediate electrical shock to restore the heart's normal rhythm. When victims receive that shock within a minute, there's a 90-percent chance of resuscitation. When it takes 10 minutes, the odds fall to less than 5 percent. Keep in mind, in a big city with a lot of traffic, it can often take far more than 10 minutes for emergency medical technicians to arrive.

But thanks to new devices called automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, a person with moderate training can now administer life-saving shocks to someone in cardiac arrest. An AED, which is about the same size and price as a good laptop computer, uses voice commands to lead the rescuer through every step, and delivers a shock only if it's necessary.

Mike Tighe, a public health official in Boston, spent several years on a crusade to put AEDs in police cars and fire trucks. A year and a half ago, Mr. Tighe needed an AED himself. Four hours into a flight from Boston to Los Angeles, his arm started flailing and his head fell forward. A flight attendant used an on-board AED and saved his life. The device had been installed on the plane only two days before.

There are countless other stories of AEDs saving people's lives. In the first six months, after AEDs were installed at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, nine out of 11 people who went into cardiac arrest were saved. In Las Vegas, AEDs in hotels and casinos have increased the survival rate from 14 percent to a remarkable 57 percent. Just last week a visitor here at the White House collapsed and would have died if not for one of the AEDs that our medical unit acquired last year.

On the basis of successes like these, it's time for the national government to help bring AEDs to public places all over America. Today I'm pleased to announce three major steps to achieve that goal. First, I'm directing the Department of Health and Human Services and the General Services Administration to develop guidelines for putting AEDs in all federal buildings. To help with this effort, the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross have volunteered to train federal employees to use AEDs.

Second, I'm working with Congress to complete a vital piece of legislation that would not only encourage the installation of AEDs in federal buildings, but also grant legal immunity to good Samaritans who use them, whether in public or private buildings.

And third, I'm proposing a new rule that would require all commercial planes with at least one flight attendant to include an AED in their in-flight medical kit.

If this entire nation comes together to place AEDs in airplanes, federal buildings and other key locations, we can save more than 20,000 lives every single year. I expect there are very few people listening today who don't know someone who has been struck down by sudden cardiac arrest. Perhaps a father, a great aunt, a cherished teacher, a dear friend. With this new technology, we have the ability to turn around the odds. We can give average citizens the power to restart a heart and save a life.

It is now our responsibility to bring this technology, this modern miracle, to every community in America.

Thanks for listening.